Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tomatoes: all in a row

 photo ab877851-cbca-4f86-a36e-f2cc0150a7b4_zps35549cd2.jpg

Yesterday's harvest all lined up. The largest is the Sudduth's Brandywine, the first of this year. The next two are Paul Robeson and the last are Black Krim, both Russian heirlooms.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Black Krim: the first

 photo 7646f59f-b5bd-4945-bfb8-0a21623aba89_zps1895ecb4.jpg

Another Russian heirloom. While this is the first one that will be eaten, I had ones ripening earlier which dropped to the ground and got moldy. Such is life. I'm sure there will be more tomatoes soon.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Paul Robeson: the first one

 photo 8eab5917-cae0-4bf8-9eb6-6ba955958ca7_zps18f25c81.jpg

The first Paul Robeson of the season peaks out behind the leaves. They have been doing well in our coastal climate. We get morning fog here in the summer by the beach, even with the heat wave more inland.

Friday, May 10, 2013

In May, full bloom



 photo IMG_1109_zpse8810aaa.jpg

 photo IMG_1108_zps810afb89.jpg

 photo IMG_1126_zpsc362b963.jpg

Gorgeous blooms of an amazing community gardener's plot. These were taken from the path.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

In full bloom: the boysenberry bush on earth day

 photo faabcabb-255b-4ec4-a531-f9fa8f2782d0_zps5ebd85de.jpg

Took me awhile to get this up. Around April 21, 2013, the boysenberry bush celebrated earth day by being in full bloom.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

California wildflower: Douglas iris

 photo 5b5ec4e3-063f-46f2-a972-3a08acf1b8cb_zpsb33f2604.jpg

For those in southern California, who wouldn't want one of these in their garden? Shade tolerant, drought resistant and stunning. These are from the Theodore Payne Foundation.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

First blackberry bloom, the outlier

 photo fc22d8a3-cd75-4ca8-baac-65c45971c5b4_zps1af76849.jpg

Way back on March 18, 2013, I took a photo of the first blackberry bloom, really an outlier. It predates the vernal equinox by two days. The rest of the vine, by the way, has yet to flower.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Presenting the first asparagus

 photo IMG_1024_zps96e32f29.jpg

As we approach the vernal equinox, all sorts of fun things have been happening, as is, I'm sure, in yours as well. The asparagus patch was well fertilized over the winter. Now the stalks emerge. I have a micro plot of asparagus, good enough for one meal for one person or one salad.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Black Krim seeds germinating

 photo IMG_1025_zpscf20eb50.jpg

Black Krim is the first to come up on Day 6, and it is 100% germination at that. Not bad. I saw the seedlings yesterday and didn't take a photo.

For our region, southern California coastal, Black Krim has been hands down one of the easiest to grow, from seed to seedling on. Our foggy summers do not faze them as much as the other types of tomatoes, and they produce fruit steadily. The smoky flavored fruit aren't huge beefsteaky guys in size but are quite nice for salads.

Last few years, they did well and hope they will do well this year.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Could caffeine be produced to benefit bees' memory?

On the heels of the news about caffeinated gum in the WSJ, which sounds like a product which should be a big hit amongst college students and truck drivers, the journal Science released a new study looking at the effect of caffeine and the memory of bees. As a natural backdrop, citrus and coffee flowers apparently have extremely low levels of caffeine in their nectar.

In the experiment, bees were presented with a scent just before feeding on a sugar solution laced with different doses of caffeine.

From Sciencenews:

That caffeine provided an edge, boosting the bees’ long-term memory, the researchers discovered. Compared with bees trained on sugar water alone, bees trained on sugar water doped with caffeine were three times as likely to remember 24 hours later that the floral scent came with a reward. After 72 hours, the caffeine-trained bees were twice as likely to remember the scent-reward connection.

Interesting the bees would be able to recall the specific flower, especially if they had visited a kazillion flowers. Another summary:

Pollination systems are biological markets, where flower visitors choose between flower species on the basis of their quality, such as the sweetness and amount of nectar per flower. Plants in turn compete for pollinators and advertise their product through colorful visual displays and scents. A key challenge in floral advertising is that signals must be not only attractive but also memorable (1): The more distinct a flower signal, the more likely a pollinator is to remember it, increasing the probability that pollinators will visit more flowers of this species while ignoring competing flower species. On page 1202 of this issue, Wright et al. (2) report that some plant species appear to gain an unfair advantage in this competitive market by manipulating the memory of bees with psychoactive drugs.

I'm not sure if 'unfair advantage' is the best possible wording, as it is all's fair in love and way and all that. But this is a fascinating glimpse of the world of pollination.

A bit more pedantic description, straight from the abstract:

Plant defense compounds occur in floral nectar, but their ecological role is not well understood. We provide evidence that plant compounds pharmacologically alter pollinator behavior by enhancing their memory of reward. Honeybees rewarded with caffeine, which occurs naturally in nectar of Coffea and Citrus species, were three times as likely to remember a learned floral scent as were honeybees rewarded with sucrose alone. Caffeine potentiated responses of mushroom body neurons involved in olfactory learning and memory by acting as an adenosine receptor antagonist. Caffeine concentrations in nectar did not exceed the bees' bitter taste threshold, implying that pollinators impose selection for nectar that is pharmacologically active but not repellent. By using a drug to enhance memories of reward, plants secure pollinator fidelity and improve reproductive success.

Interesting stuff and not surprising, actually.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Around town fleurs

 photo IMG_1013_zps05ddcee5.jpg

Camellias continue to bloom around town. Great for shady gardens but not really drought tolerant. Family: Theaceae.

 photo IMG_1014_zps1163ba65.jpg

Around this time of the year, the pittosporum blooms. The tree and flowers are both meh. Pittosporums are somewhat drought tolerant but they do not require tons of water. I love the smell of the blooms, stronger at night, which means they are probably moth pollinated. That makes sense as the flowers are small and meh, as mentioned above. Family: Pittosporaceae. Of course.

 photo IMG_1016_zpsbacfca1f.jpg

I would like to see more gardens use ceanothus as they are drought tolerant. Here they are in bloom. Family: Rhamnaceae.

 photo IMG_1020_zps34a1b79b.jpg

Poppies are starting to bloom. These are a light colored variant, and I don't know the species variant: Eschscholzia californica. Family: Papaveraceae

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Daffodil photo IMG_1011_zpsa70d8aa4.jpg

Here is the first daffodil I picked this year. Daffodils marks the start of spring around here, well, at least, our version of spring.

In my garden, the daffodils predate my time as they were planted by the person who had my plot before me. They still pop up faithfully each year without much help from me.

 photo IMG_1009_zpse6f77ad4.jpg

Here is the first daffodil, a bit tweaked, for some reason.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Starting tomatoes this year

 photo IMG_1010_zps1d8a5ef5.jpg

As the White Rabbit declared he was late, so am I. Last year, I started in late January and now, 'tis early March. As I did last year, I soaked the seeds in water for an hour before placing them in potting soil.

The seeds I chose (and who knows what germination luck I'll get) were: Black Krim, Momotaro (hybrid), Sungold (hybrid), Paul Robeson and Brandywine Sudduth. I personally collected the seeds for all except for the hybrids which came from Kitagawa Seeds.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Growing carrots in containers

IMG_0984_zpsaec83339 photo IMG_0984_zpsaec83339.jpg

You see, I have tried to grow carrots in my garden plot but to no avail. Yes, I use generous amounts of Sluggo. Yes, I have tried copper tape. Yes, I have tried beer in shallow containers. Between the slugs and the snails, I get very nice germination but decimation afterwards. The slugs and snails take no prisoners. They leave no carrot behind.

My bright idea this year is to start the carrots in containers on my balcony. This should be fine even though I don't get much sun this time of year. Then I will take the carrots, container and all, and let it loose into the gastropod-infested environs of my garden. But the container will be covered with fine netting. My plan for now. We'll see who wins. So far, it feels like it's been Gastropods 100, me 0. This is life in a community garden.

How I sow the seeds: I fill the container with good organic potting soil. When the soil is moist and drains well, I sprinkle carrot seeds over the top. I dust the seeds with fresh potting soil, a very light cover.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ranunculus in bloom

IMG_0981_zps945a31ad photo IMG_0981_zps945a31ad.jpg

A walk around town reveals ranunculus in bloom after the rain. Not drought tolerant but oh so pretty. They have their own family. Family Ranunculaceae

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Potato flowering in winter

IMG_0978_zps98d09898 photo IMG_0978_zps98d09898.jpg

Our winter, that is. We have fairly mild winters although it's way too cold for subtropicals like tomatoes, basil, and chili peppers.

Over the years, I have not had the greatest luck with growing potatoes. I would described it as meh.

But then I had always grown potatoes in our summers when it was warmer.

These took off over the last few months and finally flowered. Lesson learned. In the winter, here in southern California, you can grow potatoes.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Notes to self on mizuna


Here's where I make notes to self regarding future plantings: plant mizuna in October at the latest! I started the seeds on my windowsill in late November. It's January and are obviously nowhere near ready to be transferred to my garden. My seeds are not as viable so it will also be time to get new seeds.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

First toadflax bloom


What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fortune of the Republic, 1878~

It has been unnaturally colder than normal the last week, with the lows in the mid 30s, F, a lovely visit from the jet stream which normally doesn't traverse our way. I am not used to cold like this. Amazingly, I still have green plants in my garden, and these include fava beans, peas, chard, parsley, potato plants and cilantro.

Not surprisingly, weeds continue to do well despite our cold spell, and right now, the toadflax is just coming up. I keep toadflax around for the dainty Easter egg colored flowers. Family Plantaginaceace, species Linaria. They were originally in the Scrophulariaceae family, which was my first guess. I don't think they do well as a cut flower because they only seem to last a day in the vase, after which the tiny flowers fall off and form a mess both on the table and in the water. Still, I occassionally bring them home for the table, if only for a day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Finally pulled out the sweet potatoes


With our colder weather now upon us, and I am talking 37 F at the coldest, the sweet potato vines have started to look awful. Finally time to pull out the vines.


I didn't get too many but will place these carefully in the dark, my closet, to cure for a few weeks. Maybe we'll have sweet potatoes for Valentines Day!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

California poppy sprouting


I have been like Johnny Appleseed these last few weeks and dispersed some of my California poppy seeds which I have collected. I don't know what subspecies these are but they are the yellow variants which grow in my garden. Family Papaveraceae, species Eschscholzia californica. These are drought-tolerant but they seem to need rain to kick them off to a good start, which we've had. It's also been chilly for us, which is around 40 F at the worst. It seems they like the colder weather for germinating.

I find poppy seedlings to be distinctive, with the two-pronged needle like cotyledons. You can see the more classic feathery look emerging. They seem to like disturbed soil. I also find they seem to pop up after a winter rain, classic fire ecology traits for living in the chapparal, our native flora.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January blooms around town


The green veggies in my garden such as chard, peas and fava beans are growing well but the peas and fava have yet to bloom. As I don't have any blooms in my garden, I thought I would trot out these I spotted on my daily walks around town. January is camellia time in Southern California. Although the camellia is far from drought tolerant, they can fill out the corner in partial shade gardens. They prefer acidic soil. Family Theaceae, same family that provides green tea.


Lavender early in the morning still has rain drops from the storm which blew through overnight. They are not in bloom yet. Lavendar is great for the drought tolerant garden. Even without blooms, the foliage is a treasure. I don't know what species these are but I'm sure these are not native. Family Lamiaceae.


Lantana seems to always be in bloom in Southern California. This should be a great book title. I believe lantana is drought tolerant and not native. They are somewhat sensitive to cold but do fine, generally. Family Verbenaceae.


These provide loads of color in the winter, our winter, that is. I used to know what these were called. I believe these non-native but drought tolerant. All I know is they are in the Lamiaceae family.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Time to pick the Meyer lemons


I confess to neglecting my poor Meyer lemon tree, and it is time to get around to finally harvesting this season's crop a bit late. I have a smaller crop than last year, and this may be for several reasons. The most obvious one is that I may need to repot the plant into a larger pot. We are not allowed to plant trees into the ground here in this community garden which is perfectly fine with me. Citrus requires a more acidic soil, and having the tree in a pot allows me to customize the soil.

But to be honest, perhaps the real reason why I have a smaller crop is that I have been less faithful in fertilizing it this last season. My usual schedule has been once a month, and this has fallen on the wayside the last half year.

I find it handy to have a Meyer lemon tree around. Although my lemons are on the smaller side, that's perfect for most recipes. I use Meyer lemons in my favorite Turkish rice recipe.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

For a new year


Do not dwell in the past

do not dream of the future

concentrate the mind on the present moment Buddha

Although I am not buddhist, I like the reminder. I don't do new year's resolutions because I believe we get to start over again every day, every moment. But this doesn't mean I think you should feel the same. Resolutions can be a nice way to start the year.

About the nasturtium above, I saw this vibrant fleur peeking out today at on the path, as if it was saying hello.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...